Top Tips for Beautiful Lips: What You Need to Know About Skin Care for Lips

When people are paying attention to you, their eyes naturally move between looking at your eyes and at your mouth. No wonder, then, that we’re all a little obsessed with “lips and lashes” in the beauty world!

You may have mastered the art of eyelashes with Latisse lash growth serum already, but what about the “lips” half of the equation? Even if you weren’t blessed at birth with a full, rosy, Cupid’s-bow kisser, there’s a lot you can do to protect your delicate lip skin and enhance what you have.

The Science of Lip Skin

First, it’s important to understand how your lips are different from the skin of your face. The skin on your lips is very thin—only 3-5 layers, compared to regular skin which can have as many as 16. It’s usually less pigmented as well, and that combination is what determines the rosiness of your lip color, because blood vessels are more visible below thin, colorless skin. The natural fullness or plumpness of your lips is due to a combination of fat and collagen (and, to a lesser extent, your lips’ current moisture level), which is affected by genes, age, and lifestyle; sun damage or habits like smoking can more quickly break down collagen.

Lips are also surprisingly defenseless on their own. They have no oil or sweat glands, which means they don’t have the stronger barrier that the rest of your skin has and therefore are more susceptible to trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL), or more simply, moisture escaping the skin and evaporating. That’s why they chap, crack, and peel so much more often than the skin anywhere else on your body. At the same time, lips are one of our organs for experiencing touch (that’s why babies put their mouths on everything!) so they’re packed with nerves, making it painful when lips are less than tip-top.

The Secret to Lush Lips: The Right Steps in the Right Order

If your lip care regimen has mostly consisted of slathering on some waxy lip balm whenever you happen to think of it, you might be frustrated by how often they’re still chapped and rough. The good news is, you can fix it! You just need to do your lip care steps in order to get the maximum benefit. Here’s how to do it:

  1. 1.) Clean: Your lips need to be free of makeup, leftover lip balm, and the damaging digestive enzymes in saliva.
  2. 2.) Exfoliate: Don’t overdo it—a couple of times per week is plenty—but a gentle sugar scrub on damp lips will help get rid of that hard dead skin without pain.
  3. 3.) Hydrate: A lighter lip treatment that includes ingredients like glycerin or hyaluronic acid will draw water into your lips’ skin, hydrating it and making your lips feel fuller and softer. Do this while your lips still feel a little damp so that there’s moisture there to draw in.
  4. 4.) Treat: If you’re using any serums or treatments to replace or boost collagen in your face, now’s the time to use them, and let them overlap onto the vermilion border, which is where the rosy part of your lips meets the skin of your face.
  5. 5.) Seal: Only now should you use a heavier balm or moisturizer with emollients like vitamin E oil, ceramides, shea butter, or beeswax, because there’s now moisture in your lips to lock in. (Ideally, use one with SPF to protect against sun damage as well.)

 

Get pumped: What you need to know about lip plumping

Curious about the lip plumping options out there? Here’s what you need to know.

Sticking to a solid skin care regimen that includes lip care is your best bet for keeping your lips as full as they naturally are. Be vigilant about your SPF and look for antioxidant protection to defend against environmental and free radical damage, and make sure you drink enough water every day to keep your skin hydrated from within.

If you want to augment your lips, injectables (also called dermal fillers) are the longest-lasting non-surgical options. These are usually quick and convenient, but fairly expensive. They must be done professionally and last anywhere from 4 to 12 months. Today, most dermal fillers in the lips use hyaluronic acid to plump and shape.

When you’re looking for something less expensive, lip plumping glosses and treatments are here for you. There are two different main types, so check your labels to see what you’re getting. The first type is the very temporary plumpers that are usually sold as lip primers or glosses and that produce a tingling or slight burning sensation. These are formulated with ingredients like menthol, capsaicin, ginger, or peppermint that mildly irritate and inflame the skin, causing blood to rush to the surface and the tissues to slightly swell. They’re generally safe to use, but need to be reapplied more often to keep the effect and may not be suitable for dry or sensitive skin types.

The second type use some combination of deep-hydrators like hyaluronic acid to moisturize and hold moisture in your lips, and ingredients like peptides or human growth factor to stimulate collagen production for more gradual but longer-lasting results. SkinMedica’s bestselling HA5 Smooth & Plump Lip System is a clinically-tested 2-step lip plumper that supports skin health, boosts your lips’ production of its own HA and collagen, and is safe for use between injectable sessions.

Take your lip care to the next level

Here’s a few more tips to give you an even more gorgeous grin:

  • • Use a silicon face brush, very soft toothbrush (not the same one you use for your teeth!), or soft damp washcloth with your lip scrub to boost exfoliation without damaging your lips.
  • • Look for lip balms or lipsticks that contain SPF—your lips especially need sun protection every day!
  • • Products that contain green tea, vitamin E or C, or other antioxidants will help guard your lips against free radical stressors like pollution, ozone, secondhand smoke, and other environmental damage culprits.
  • • Using matte lipstick? Make sure you’ve exfoliated and moisturized first—and give your priming plenty of time to absorb before you color in. If you struggle with very dry lips, skip the trick of making regular lipstick matte by using translucent powder to set it, because powder absorbs moisture and could dry out your skin.
  • • Using lip balms or moisturizers doesn’t make your lips get “addicted” to them. They’re designed to seal in moisture, so if your lips start out dry, you’re sealing in the dryness and blocking out any moisture from penetrating. But used properly after hydrating your lips, it’s no different than any other skin care product, which has to be reapplied regularly.
  • • Try not to bite or lick your lips or pick at them with your nails—all of these things can damage your skin and lead to painful raw spots, cracks, and bleeding.
  • • Smoking, excessive alcohol or coffee consumption, and eating a lot of spicy, salty, or citrus foods can all dehydrate lips, so either cut back or commit to extra TLC for your lips’ skin.
  • • Combat dry, over-circulated air with a humidifier and train yourself to breathe through your nose, not your mouth, to save your smile.

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